The "Thousand Faces" of Quechua in the North of Potosí


  • Rosaleen Howard Newcastle University



Andean languages, Bolivia, language contact, language ideologies, Northern Potosí


This article examines the relationship between the Aymara, Quechua and Spanish languages in the central valleys of Bolivia, as this was observed by the author during several fieldtrips to the region in the 1990s. It is based on the premise that the socio-geographic distribution and patterns of use of these languages is best explained in terms of the unequal social, economic and political relations of power that pertained between the urban and rural sectors of society during that period. The article first gives an overview of the sociolinguistic landscape of Northern Potosí. It then proceeds to an analysis of the mutual influences between the three languages, in a series of lexical fields in particular. Using an anthropological linguistic approach, emphasis is placed on speaker perspective and cultural context, in order to explore the significance of words arising from language contact, rather than on their formal features alone.



Author Biography

Rosaleen Howard, Newcastle University

Chair of Hispanic Studies, School of Modern Languages, Newcastle University, UK